When I was younger one of my favourite authors was Roald Dahl. While he might be better remembered as the author of The BFG or George’s Mavellous Medicine, I was always captivated by his autobiographical tales in Going Solo. The book focusses on his experiences as a Hurricane pilot during the Second World War. Particular attention is given to the RAF campaign in Greece attempting fruitlessly to stop the German invasion and the overwhelmingly stronger Luftwaffe.
Dahl’s squadron was stationed just outside of Athens. Despite his inexperience of flying or fighting aerial combats, the shortage of trained pilots and planes meant that they were regularly sent up on their own to deal with much larger swarms of German planes. He describes in vivid detail the rush of exhilaration and terror that came with these encounters and his lucky escapes.
I returned back to this book as my boys were getting older and realised I was enjoying it just as much as they were. I thought the aerial campaign in Greece could provide a colourful backdrop for a stay at home campaign. I’d picked up some exceptionally good value 1/300 planes from Plastic Soldier Company and had more than enough ME109’s, JU88’s and Hurricanes to create scenarios for most of the engagements in the book. The pictures here are of planes I painted for the Battle of Britain last year. I’ll need to get the right schemes for Greece instead now. With a bit of research, I was able to find a bit more about the wider campaign. I’m now considering how best to play it under lockdown - as a solo game, or with an opponent over the internet? Going Solo really might have to be a solo gaming experience!
I haven’t quite decided which rules to go for. If I do play it with other players, Check Your Six is probably my ruleset of choice. The hex movement in this should mean playing it digitally will be less ambiguous with movement and shooting than many conventional rulesets. If I’m playing solo then Bag the Hun is probably a better alternative as the card-driven system will create a bit more randomness! This also utilises a hex grid, so could be played remotely with opponents.
From a rules perspective, the biggest challenge is going to be trying to make sure the RAF pilots have some chance of survival against the vastly superior numbers and frankly often far more experienced pilots of the Luftwaffe. I think part of it will come down to some clever scenario design. My first game will involve a number of German bombers attacking a ship in Khalkis Harbour that Dahl will have to try and deter. Simply surviving the campaign will be quite an achievement for some of the RAF pilots I think!